Village Matters - Gender Equality Edition

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Volume 2, 28th July 2022<br />

P.09<br />




GOT US?<br />

P.03<br />







P.10<br />

GENDER<br />


QUIZ<br />

P.04<br />

WOMEN<br />


BIMLA<br />


P.02<br />


HEALTH<br />

WITH DR.<br />

RANI<br />

P.12<br />

REMEMBE-<br />

RING<br />

FEMALE<br />


P.06<br />




2<br />


<strong>Gender</strong> <strong>Equality</strong> <strong>Edition</strong><br />

Volume 2, 28th July 2022<br />

As we gather at this year’s WOMAD festival, we are all reminded of the joy of coming together and spending time with others. After facing so<br />

many unprecedented challenges over the last two years from the COVID-19 pandemic, we are all navigating how to brave our transformed,<br />

post-pandemic world. What lockdowns and unknown dangers hopefully taught us here, and around our globalised world, is that we are all<br />

dependent on others; humanity acting together for a common good has much more power than hate, division, and competition.<br />


What we hope you will take away from this newspaper, and Action <strong>Village</strong> India (AVI), is how we are passionate about the power of respect<br />

and solidarity regarding rural development. For if modern development is going to empower and make just change, it must be led by those<br />

who truly know their societies, who can be fully supported to carry out the needs and work required in their space and time.<br />

As such, AVI prides itself in being an organisation which prioritises our partners in India and the communities they work alongside. We learn<br />

from them about their struggles and how better to create positive change for others. Crucially, we hope the work of our partners and our<br />

dialogue and interactions with them can counter harmful stereotypes and highlight the resilience and common humanity we all share in this<br />

world for making it a better place.<br />

At WOMAD this year, AVI hopes to show you the work we support our partners to undertake on women’s rights and gender equality; we<br />

explore how women face continuous challenges to gender equality at all stages of their lives. We hope to highlight the strength of women,<br />

despite all the obstacles thrown in their way. As Eleanor Roosevelt said: ‘A woman is like a tea bag – you never know how strong she is until<br />

she gets in hot water.’<br />

Empowered women make for more peaceful, cohesive societies, and a better, more equal world; something which we should all be striving<br />

for every day. Thank you to everyone who contributed to this newspaper - it could not have been done without you all!<br />

Emily Lewis<br />



We interviewed Dr. Rani to hear more about her<br />

work with mothers and adolescent girls living in<br />

rural Tamil Nadu.<br />

Tell us about your adolescent health classes.<br />

How did these start and what benefits are<br />

you seeing from these educational classes for<br />

girls and wider rural society?<br />

Dr. Rani has been working within maternal health<br />

since the 1990s, as a community physician and<br />

activist, educating rural communities through<br />

health centres on maternal health, nutrition, and<br />

sanitation amongst other health topics. When<br />

asking rural women what health issues they<br />

faced earlier in her career, many would say they<br />

struggled with sanitation issues due to a lack of<br />

water facilities, and many were anaemic.<br />

From these discussions, Dr. Rani organised<br />

camps, which trained local volunteers – in rural<br />

areas, there often are not any trained doctors<br />

or nurses – to be able to tackle common<br />

health problems faced by expectant mothers<br />

and women. Importantly, Dr. Rani saw the<br />

complex network of issues facing rural women<br />

relating to childbirth and health and decided<br />

to run clinics with others and help as many<br />

rural women as possible. For example, with<br />

Association for Sarva Seva Farms (ASSEFA),<br />

she started to run anaemia awareness camps,<br />

alongside adolescent health classes for girls and<br />

pregnancy check-ups.<br />

Can you explain how maternal health is<br />

viewed in Tamil Nadu, and even wider, across<br />

India?<br />

Dr. Rani explained that unfortunately, in India,<br />

boys are still overwhelmingly desired over girls;<br />

the latter are often neglected through childhood<br />

with attention and resources focused on the<br />

sons of the family. As such, the deprivation<br />

of girls from birth throughout childhood and<br />

into adolescence and adulthood continually<br />

prohibits society from changing for the better,<br />

as girls remain discriminated against and seen<br />

purely as wives and mothers that must produce<br />

sons.<br />

What more do you believe needs to be done<br />

to improve women’s health and safety during<br />

pregnancy, labour, and post-natal care?<br />

Dr. Rani explained how access is still a huge issue<br />

for rural women. They cannot get themselves to<br />

clinics, or hospitals in larger cities, so they face<br />

isolation in the countryside and have to rely<br />

on the community to help them through their<br />

problems. Access certainly needs to improve to<br />

avoid unnecessary fatalities and complications,<br />

for every woman is important to families and<br />

society, even if she does not feel this, or she is<br />

not valued by her community.<br />

Moreover, educational methods must continue<br />

to improve, as unaware, young mothers will only<br />

continue to be caught up in a harsh cycle of<br />

isolation and deprivation; it is through educating<br />

the young women and men on these health<br />

issues that real progress can be made. Instilling<br />

self-confidence in women on their sexual and<br />

reproductive health rights is essential to improve<br />

this significant issue of maternal vulnerability.<br />

Emily Lewis & Dr. Rani<br />

Emily is Action <strong>Village</strong> India’s summer intern and<br />

has completed a BA in Liberal Arts and Natural<br />

Sciences at the University of Birmingham.

<strong>Gender</strong> <strong>Equality</strong> <strong>Edition</strong><br />

Volume 2, 28th July 2022 VILLAGE MATTERS<br />

3<br />

Voting in action at a child parliament at Thina Primary School, Birbhum, West Bengal<br />




EquiDiversity’s Child Parliament model seeks<br />

to bridge the empowerment gap in education<br />

at the primary level, whereby children from the<br />

margins become active learners. Children have<br />

opportunities to practice newly acquired skills;<br />

learning and development happen in the context<br />

of a community.<br />

Focusing on child participation, leadership and<br />

strengthening life skills like self-awareness,<br />

empathy, critical thinking, problem solving,<br />

creative thinking, effective communication,<br />

interpersonal relationships, coping with<br />

emotions and awareness about child rights<br />

and safety, the Child Parliament creates an<br />

environment that is inclusive with the children<br />

at the centre.<br />

The Child Parliament is an elected structure,<br />

comprising of five ministers - Food, Education<br />

and Environment, Health and Hygiene,<br />

<strong>Gender</strong> Justice and Sports, all led by their<br />

Prime Minister. The schools and the children<br />

undertake an elaborate<br />

process starting from selfnomination<br />

of candidates to<br />

election through secret ballot<br />

and counting votes to declare<br />

winners. The Education<br />

and Environment Minister<br />

looks after environmental/<br />

sustainability education that<br />

aims at developing ethical conscience and<br />

responsible behaviour towards the environment.<br />

Planting trees, building nutrition gardens, seed<br />

preservation, learning to produce vermicompost,<br />

mushroom farming, water conservation etc are<br />

all promoted.<br />

The Education Minister is especially in charge of<br />

monitoring absenteeism and takes steps through<br />

home visits to contact the absenting child and<br />

parents to bring the child back to school. The<br />

Food and Health Minister is in charge of looking<br />

into health and hygiene education by monitoring<br />

the midday meal cooking process, checking the<br />

hygiene condition of children, giving children<br />

iron tablets, and ensuring that each child<br />

performs the ten steps of washing hands before<br />

eating.<br />

The <strong>Gender</strong> Justice and Sports Minister ensures<br />

that gender discrimination does not take place<br />

during any activity; particularly during sports<br />

and play time. Making physical sports accessible<br />

to all genders and breaking gender stereotypes<br />

in sport is a special focus area for the minister.<br />

The Prime Minister leads all activities including<br />

rallies and campaigns, coordinates with all, and<br />

holds weekly meetings.<br />

This article now showcases some examples of<br />

success from this scheme.<br />

Mapping Journeys<br />

‘His mother says that since the<br />

gender sessions, Rahul helps<br />

his mother with sweeping the<br />

house, washing dishes and<br />

looking after his little sister.’<br />

Bhubaneswari<br />

The journey of Bhubaneswari Haler in the Child<br />

Parliament process in the last four years has<br />

been riveting. Extremely shy, bullied by friends<br />

for not talking to anyone, spending her time alone<br />

in the house as her mother travelled to Kolkata<br />

everyday for her work as a domestic help, little<br />

Bhubaneswari, then studying in class III, bore a<br />

lot of pain in her heart. She was excluded from<br />

games and her classmates rarely spoke to her.<br />

In 2018, she expressed her desire to become a<br />

member of the Education<br />

Minister’s team in the Child<br />

Parliament Programme.<br />

Slowly, she started opening<br />

up and shared her pain and<br />

fears anonymously in “Moner<br />

Baksho” (The Thought and<br />

Feeling Box). Discussions<br />

around these notes helped<br />

children understand the impact of actions on<br />

others. Later, Bhubaneshwari shared her feelings<br />

with us. Slowly, she started gaining confidence<br />

as she was given specific responsibilities.<br />

She expressed her desire to play football and<br />

the <strong>Gender</strong> Justice Minister made an initiative to<br />

hold football and ‘bou basanti’ (previously meant<br />

‘only for girls') matches with all children.<br />

In 2019, when the Child Parliament elections<br />

took place through secret ballot, Bhubaneshwari<br />

got the highest number of votes and was chosen<br />

as the Prime Minister. Bhubaneshwari did justice<br />

to her role and made sure all the Ministers were<br />

playing an active role. She regularly opened<br />

the ‘Moner Baksho’ and read out notes written<br />

anonymously and participated in discussions.<br />

In 2020, she was again elected as the Health<br />

Minister. Today, Bhubaneshwari has moved on<br />

to Junior High School but has joined the youth<br />

group for girls.<br />

Rahul<br />

We met 11-year-old Rahul through a vulnerability<br />

assessment survey after the Amphan cyclone of<br />

2020. Rahul is not like most children, his body is<br />

different. As a result, he is subjected to taunts,<br />

ridicule and name-calling by boys and adults in<br />

his neighbourhood and he did not have many<br />

friends.<br />

Rahul was invited to Child Parliament sessions<br />

with other children, and now, he never misses a<br />

session. He is an active boy who loves interacting<br />

with others. His mother says that since the<br />

gender sessions, Rahul helps his mother with<br />

sweeping the house, washing dishes and looking<br />

after his little sister.<br />

Somnath Pal<br />

Somnath Pal is currently studying in class VI,<br />

and he is a child representative of the Palsa<br />

<strong>Village</strong> Level Child Protection Committee in<br />

Birbhum. He played an active role in the recent<br />

Shishu Sansad Sabha with the Gram Panchayat<br />

where children raised a number of issues like<br />

needing a public toilet for girls, a boundary wall<br />

around the school, street lights, the cleaning of<br />

the drain near school, more public water taps,<br />

swing and other equipment for the playground.<br />

Somnath particularly raised the issue of<br />

installing public dustbins at specific points for a<br />

clean environment.<br />

As such, it is clear how many benefits have<br />

been reaped so far from this intervention<br />

programme. EquiDiversity is challenging gender<br />

norms, instilling confidence in young children<br />

and most importantly, expanding dialogue in<br />

communities. It is with the help of charities such<br />

as Action <strong>Village</strong> India, that we can carry out this<br />

life-changing work.<br />

Anindita Majumdar<br />

Anindita is the founder and director of<br />

Equidiversity Foundation (EDF). EDF envisions<br />

a society where there is gender equality, cosharing<br />

of power and freedom from genderbased<br />

violence. EDF is committed to creating<br />

an environment that promotes gender<br />

equality through political, social and financial<br />

empowerment with active informed participation<br />

of individuals, the community and the State.

4<br />


<strong>Gender</strong> <strong>Equality</strong> <strong>Edition</strong><br />

Volume 2, 28th July 2022<br />

At my recent visit to the beautician to have the<br />

usual threading done, I struck up a conversation<br />

with the beautician. She was of similar age to<br />

me but has been married for twenty years and<br />

has two children. She was from a village in India<br />

and was compelled to get married at the age<br />

of 16. I got married when I was in my mid-30s. I<br />

started to think about what I was doing at 16 and<br />

realised that at this age, I was at school, enjoying<br />

learning, and playing sport, living a full life.<br />

My beautician friend on the other hand was not<br />

allowed to go to school. Instead, she was being<br />

groomed to be a good wife to her future husband.<br />

Fast forward to 2022 and I am saddened to see<br />

that not much has changed since my beautician<br />

was 16. If you are a girl, growing up India, you<br />

have to be one of the fortunate few who are<br />



allowed to attend school and pursue a career.<br />

In many villages in India, families that have sons<br />

and daughters will always choose for their son<br />

to continue with their education, while their<br />

daughters have to quit school to be trained to do<br />

chores and possibly go to work for other families<br />

to earn money. This is seen as income for the<br />

struggling family. One can understand this<br />

choice as such families are living hand to mouth<br />

and do not have the luxury of thinking long term.<br />

They have families to look after, and to do that,<br />

they need money which a girl can earn by doing<br />

household chores. In any case, she will be doing<br />

this even after she is married.<br />

Once she is married at the age of 16 (which<br />

is illegal in UK), she will be sent off to her<br />

husband's home. Most often, it is a joint family<br />

which means that at least three generations will<br />

be living under the same roof. The new bride will<br />

now have to cook and clean for the entire family<br />

and will be expected to have children as soon as<br />

possible.<br />

In India, a girl’s life is often decided when she is<br />

born. Of course, if you are born into a privileged<br />

household, it might be different, but at the end of<br />

the day, it is the less fortunate who make up the<br />

greater percentage of the population. This article<br />

is not even scratching the surface of what it is<br />

like being a girl in India, but it does highlight the<br />

fact that India have sent astronauts to space but<br />

have not been able to see the value of educating<br />

girls to the highest level possible.<br />

Theroshene Naidoo<br />

Theroshene is a Deputy Head (Academic) at a<br />

boys Prep School in the UK and a Trustee at Action<br />

<strong>Village</strong> India. Theroshene is very passionate<br />

about education for all because she believes that<br />

every child has the right to a good education and<br />

should not be a privilege. Theroshene is a strong<br />

supporter of the girls’ education project that<br />

Action <strong>Village</strong> India supports which helps girls<br />

in Jharkhand and Bihar to be able to continue<br />

their education.<br />

The project aims to break this vicious cycle<br />

of dependency and to raise awareness of the<br />

importance of girls’ education throughout<br />

communities. The project achieves this through<br />

supporting around 100 girls’ with school tuition<br />

fees, uniforms, books and other educational<br />

expenses and through running coaching centres.<br />

EKTA Resource Centre for women was founded<br />

in the year 1990, with the goal of creating a<br />

gender just society. Having its base in Madurai,<br />

Tamil Nadu, it works with groups like students<br />

in select schools and colleges, elected women<br />

representatives, civil society organisations, policy<br />

makers, and implementers by adopting multiple<br />

strategies.<br />

With the founding team’s strong roots in the<br />

Indian women’s movement, it adopts a gender<br />

justice framework on women’s issues, with a<br />

specific focus on addressing violence against<br />

women. The organisation has continued to meet<br />

the important challenges of keeping momentum<br />

at the grassroots level and, at the same time,<br />

creating leverage with advocacy initiatives at the<br />

State and National level.<br />

AVI interviewed Bimla Chandrasekaran, the<br />

director of EKTA Resource Centre for Women.<br />

What discrimination or backlash have<br />

you faced since creating EKTA, and more<br />

generally over the years as a female founder<br />

and strong activist for women’s rights?<br />

‘As a women’s rights organisation, we faced<br />

challenges like getting a place to rent for an office.<br />

Secondly, families were not willing to send their<br />

daughters, daughters-in-law, and wives to work<br />

with the organisation.<br />




The COVID-19 pandemic really brought many<br />

new challenges. With no public transport, it was<br />

difficult to meet in person, with communication<br />

reliant on phone conversations and online<br />

wherever possible. Moreover, with more men<br />

staying at home, demands increased for sex from<br />

partners. Therefore, partner violence increased<br />

during these challenging conditions. Unwanted<br />

pregnancies, including teenage pregnancies,<br />

also increased, alongside child marriages.<br />

Women and men faced a loss of income, and<br />

there was stress placed on, and disruption of,<br />

social protection networks. Stress levels amongst<br />

women and adolescents were very high and it<br />

was found through interactive processes of the<br />

work of EKTA, that almost 90% of women and<br />

adolescents had suicidal thoughts.<br />

Taking stock of the situation, we had to make some<br />

changes to the programme. EKTA now focuses<br />

more on mental health by offering counselling<br />

and referrals to specialised institutions. Our staff<br />

team has initiated a programme called ‘speak to<br />

us’ on a weekly basis. Moreover, attempts have<br />

been made to enhance awareness about help-line<br />

numbers for women and children by distributing<br />

stickers. EKTA is exploring possibilities of linkages<br />

with institutions that offer skills development and<br />

employment opportunities for women.’<br />

EKTA acknowledges the need to work with<br />

young girls and boys regarding gender<br />

issues. What progress, if any, have you seen<br />

from working with children?<br />

‘We have formed child parliaments and forums<br />

which have enhanced confidence and leadership<br />

of girls (majority) and boys (minority). We also<br />

work with youth in schools and colleges on<br />

gender equality, including challenging dominant<br />

masculinities. We hope education for boys and<br />

girls will challenge the patriarchy and ingrained<br />

hierarchies.<br />

In the district of Tamil Nau, tribal girls (semiorphans)<br />

reside in hostels and go to school.<br />

Learning centres and life skills training initiatives<br />

have been set up and recently, the government<br />

asked EKTA to manage a child help-line in a<br />

railway station, which is an important day for<br />

EKTA. This recognition shows the power of our<br />

work, but it also presents new challenges, as<br />

children at times get lost or run away from difficult<br />

circumstances. There is always more work to be<br />

done.’<br />

Emily Lewis & Bimla Chandrasekaran<br />

Bimla, the founder of EKTA Resource Centre for<br />

Women, has been working at the policy advocacy<br />

level in preparing shadow reports on CEDAW<br />

(Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination<br />

against Women) and disseminating concluding<br />

comments of the CEDAW committee. EKTA is<br />

active in monitoring the SDGs from a gender lens,<br />

as well as inputting into the Status of Women<br />

Study at the national level. EKTA does training<br />

for participants from Sri Lanka and India. EKTA<br />

thus has a national and South Asian presence on<br />

gender issues and men and masculinities.<br />

Though EKTA had an all female staff team, some<br />

of the meetings and consultations still had male<br />

participants, due to suspicion as to what these<br />

women were doing and why the team was staying<br />

until late in the evening in meetings and travelling<br />

to different places. As such, men visiting and<br />

infiltrating discussions was seen as problematic.<br />

Above all, it was extremely challenging to get<br />

recognised as a woman-led organisation amidst<br />

India’s male dominated civil society. At every<br />

step, we had to prove our capabilities and take<br />

the blame for the slightest mistake. We were<br />

constantly reminded about our biology and a<br />

need for “male protection.”’<br />

How has EKTA’s work on gender-based<br />

violence changed since COVID-19 ?<br />

‘The gender-based violence prevention work of<br />

EKTA continued by bringing some needs-based<br />

additional focus areas to our work.

<strong>Gender</strong> <strong>Equality</strong> <strong>Edition</strong><br />

Volume 2, 28th July 2022 VILLAGE MATTERS<br />

5<br />





My journey to working on gender equality and<br />

women’s and girls’ rights began in the late<br />

1990s, when I was working with an organisation<br />

supporting local partners in different countries<br />

helping girls and boys on the streets. Many of<br />

these projects were focused on supporting<br />

children to access their rights to shelter, justice,<br />

education and safety, protecting them from<br />

violence and helping them to reintegrate into<br />

schools, their families or assisted living.<br />

However, it was clear that organisations<br />

were not tackling the root causes of girls’<br />

vulnerability; responses at that time did not<br />

involve addressing gender inequality by<br />

challenging patriarchal systems, i.e., working<br />

on the disabling environment around girls. As I<br />

learned more about what was working and what<br />

was not working to achieve change for girls and<br />

boys, I was privileged to meet feminist activists<br />

and thinkers and draw on their understanding<br />

and expertise. This helped me see the work<br />

differently and find questions to explore with<br />

partners, to better understand gender and power<br />

issues and how these could be addressed.<br />

In the following decade, I had the opportunity to<br />

work directly with women’s rights organisations<br />

in different parts of the world and have been<br />

lucky to continue learning from them. Since 2008,<br />

I have been a freelance consultant supporting<br />

organisations to undertake gender reviews,<br />

integrate gender equality issues into their<br />

programmes, learn from their work on gender<br />

equality and women’s rights and put feminist<br />

principles into action. Returning to Action <strong>Village</strong><br />

India (AVI) as a Trustee in the last few years, it has<br />

been interesting to understand more about our<br />

partners’ work with rural women and men and<br />

the extent to which they are explicitly assessing<br />

and addressing gender inequality issues as part<br />

of their projects. It is exciting that AVI’s newest<br />

partner the EquiDiversity Foundation’s (EDF) in<br />

West Bengal, is working with women to secure<br />

democratic power and challenge violence against<br />

women and girls (VAWG),<br />

gender stereotypes and<br />

inequality. There is much<br />

we can learn from EDF’s<br />

approach to working<br />

on gender and power<br />

and I was extremely<br />

privileged to spend five<br />

days with them in April<br />

2022, accompanying<br />

AVI’s Executive Director, Esther, on a visit to the<br />

Women’s Leadership and Political Participation<br />

Project.<br />

EquiDiversity have developed their project<br />

slowly, partly due to funding constraints, but<br />

also because of wanting to learn what works<br />

across the different Panchayat contexts in their<br />

operational areas of West Bengal (they are<br />

working in four Panchayats in the AVI supported<br />

project) and based on their learning, adapting<br />

their approaches and honing their focus. The<br />

project takes a holistic approach to supporting<br />

women elected representatives to effectively<br />

perform their duties alongside empowering<br />

women in each Panchayat, through the formation<br />

of a Nagi Jagaran Committee (NJC) (Community<br />

Watch Committee) which offers a platform for<br />

women to find solidarity, implement VAWG<br />

prevention strategies, and support survivors of<br />

violence and act as a bridge between women<br />

voters and local government.<br />

EquiDiversity Foundation takes a feminist<br />

approach to its work, centring the priorities of<br />

marginalised women, supported by a team of<br />

local women community mobilisers (including<br />

one man) who take a participatory and nonhierarchical<br />

approach to project implementation.<br />

“The ways EquiDiversity is working<br />

on challenging ‘power over’ at<br />

all levels and the way women are<br />

supported to have ‘power within’,<br />

‘p owe r to’, and ‘power with’, offers<br />

valuable learning.”<br />

Mental health and staff wellbeing activities are<br />

woven into the work and there are sessions<br />

with men and boys alongside women and<br />

girls, recognising that this is fundamental for<br />

addressing gender inequality. And importantly,<br />

key to a feminist approach, is addressing unequal<br />

power relations between men and women. The<br />

ways EquiDiversity is working on challenging<br />

‘power over’ at all levels and the way women<br />

are supported to have ‘power within’, ‘power<br />

to’ and ‘power with’ offers valuable learning.<br />

Challenging the power of the political elite in<br />

the different Panchayats is extremely difficult<br />

and involves painstaking work. It requires EDF<br />

to have a deep understanding of who holds<br />

power in the various Panchayats and how the<br />

power dynamics constantly shift. It means<br />

building relationships with opinion leaders,<br />

but also training and supporting male elected<br />

representatives to understand women’s rights,<br />

the benefits of power sharing with women elected<br />

representatives, the importance of collaboration<br />

and responding to the priorities of both female<br />

and male citizens. Ultimately, this creates more<br />

effective and functional Panchayats with fairer<br />

and stronger elected representatives.<br />

At the family level, the power which women’s<br />

families have over them is carefully challenged<br />

through the women’s involvement in the NJCs.<br />

Here women learn about their rights, VAWG<br />

and the drivers of violence; they learn about<br />

the political system and<br />

channels through which<br />

they can raise issues and<br />

participate in decision<br />

making spaces. Through<br />

attending these groups,<br />

women are able to get<br />

out of the house, many<br />

of them sharing that they<br />

had not been able to do<br />

so previously. And once<br />

they are given permission to attend the first few<br />

NJC meetings, women spoke of enacting their<br />

right to mobility in other areas of their lives.<br />

At the same time, the project has been developing<br />

work with small groups of the women’s husbands<br />

to change their attitudes and behaviours and<br />

develop their empathy and understanding of<br />

gender inequality. EDF recognise there is more<br />

to be done to change family dynamics and there<br />

is often resistance with older women within the<br />

family, but for now, they are learning how to build<br />

on this area of the project and there is already<br />

evidence that the power over women exerted by<br />

family members is diminishing.<br />

Women in the NJCs and women elected<br />

representatives shared many examples of<br />

their power within – feeling confident, having<br />

knowledge about their rights and feeling able<br />

to speak in meetings, recognising that violence<br />

against women and children is unacceptable.<br />

This work with the NJCs is a long process,<br />

supporting each woman on a journey of<br />

empowerment but at the same time developing<br />

an effective NJC with sub-groups taking on<br />

different areas of work, establishing decision<br />

making structures and checks and balances to<br />

ensure equal participation of all and ultimately,<br />

a sustainable NJC which will continue beyond<br />

EDF’s involvement.<br />

Work with the NJC members and the women<br />

elected representatives is also supporting<br />

women to develop power to – power to take<br />

actions and power to make changes. Women<br />

elected representatives have held meetings<br />

in their Sansads (constituencies within<br />

Panchayats) to gather the views of women in<br />

their neighbourhoods and to develop plans to<br />

share these in Panchayat meetings and push for<br />

their concerns to be taken up into the Panchayat<br />

plans – e.g. street lighting, safe bathing areas<br />

for women, toilets for girls in schools, amongst<br />

other things.<br />

And finally, we could see the many ways in<br />

which women have power with – NJC members<br />

coming together with each other to challenge<br />

VAWG, building relationships with the police<br />

and calling them in response to incidences of<br />

abuse, preventing forced marriages in their<br />

communities. Groups of women have gone<br />

together to the Panchayat to have their voices<br />

heard and ask for their priorities to be included in<br />

development plans. Others have run awareness<br />

camps to educate others on women’s rights,<br />

gender quality and VAWG in their communities.<br />

There is no doubt that this project is making a<br />

significant positive difference for women and<br />

girls and the wider communities in many ways<br />

and women have become stronger, more visible<br />

and are having their voices heard. However,<br />

EDF recognise that the road ahead is daunting,<br />

and that power can be gained and lost. It<br />

was wonderful to see the level of creativity<br />

and activism amongst the women elected<br />

representatives, NJC members and the EDF<br />

team and the determination of all to continue<br />

this important and crucial work.<br />

This project reminds us of the importance of<br />

working on the root causes of gender inequality<br />

and the need to shift power, recognising that it is<br />

not possible to encourage women to participate<br />

in decision making spaces without addressing<br />

other issues alongside this: supporting women to<br />

understand their rights, helping them to develop<br />

strategies to voice their priorities to decision<br />

makers and hold duty bearers to account,<br />

facilitating them to come together to find ways<br />

to challenge violence and building alliances with<br />

men, so they too become committed to gender<br />

equality.<br />

Elanor Jackson<br />

Elanor has worked in international development<br />

for 30 years, 23 of them working on children’s<br />

rights and, women’s rights and gender equality.<br />

Elanor has been involved with AVI since 1994 as<br />

a former Trustee and long-term volunteer with<br />

Madras Cafe. Working as a consultant over the<br />

last 12 years, she has supported organisations<br />

to improve learning and programme quality and<br />

facilitated project evaluations, gender reviews<br />

and gender equality training. Recently she cofounded<br />

a consultancy – <strong>Gender</strong>flection.

6<br />


<strong>Gender</strong> <strong>Equality</strong> <strong>Edition</strong><br />

Volume 2, 28th July 2022<br />


most such crimes go unreported in the country.<br />

'11 arrested after woman allegedly gang-raped,<br />

tortured, and paraded through streets in India'<br />

[CBN news], '26-year-old veterinarian raped and<br />

burned alive at Shadnagar' [India Today], 'Girl, 13,<br />

raped by police in India when she went to report<br />

rape' [Independent], 'Father arrested in India<br />

for beheading his 17-year-old daughter' [CNN].<br />

Every week, these stories continue to dominate<br />

the headlines in India.<br />

<strong>Gender</strong>-based violence (GBV) is one of the<br />

most prevalent issues facing girls and women<br />

worldwide. It is a human rights violation and<br />

a major manifestation of gender inequality,<br />

targeting women because of their subordinate<br />

status in society. GBV can take many different<br />

forms, such as domestic violence, economic<br />

violence, emotional abuse, sexual violence,<br />

human trafficking, honour killings, rape, child<br />

marriage, dowry death, acid attacks, and<br />

female genital mutilations. This psychological,<br />

physical, and/or sexual abuse can have serious<br />

implications for the sexual and reproductive<br />

health of women.<br />

Despite measures having been adopted to<br />

tackle GBV at a national and international level,<br />

armed conflicts and humanitarian emergencies,<br />

such as the coronavirus pandemic increase the<br />

risk of violence against women and girls. GBV<br />

has increased significantly in the last ten years.<br />

Research on violence against women conducted<br />

by WHO shows that nearly 1 in 3, or 30%, of<br />

women, have been subjected to sexual and/or<br />

physical violence.<br />

India presents alarming rates of GBV. These<br />

crimes come from the disparity in power and the<br />

consequent inaccessibility to political and social<br />

resources that are incorporated within a deeply<br />

patriarchal society and an inadequate response<br />

by the government, as the social and cultural<br />

forces outweigh the policy and legislative<br />

framework present in the country. The intensity<br />

with which the violence takes place is disparate<br />

between women of marginal and minority<br />

communities, and the inability of the state to<br />

protect minorities is an open secret.<br />

A 2019 report shows a 7.3% increase in crimes<br />

against women when compared to 2018. Rape is<br />

the most extreme form of GBV. This crime inflicts<br />

severe emotional injuries on its victims and its<br />

worst consequences are unwanted pregnancy -<br />

since even in cases of rape, abortion is punished<br />

by law in India - and the transmission of the HIV<br />

virus. According to the National Crime Records<br />

Bureau (NCRB), there were 32,033 rape cases in<br />

India in 2019, which translates to 88 rape cases<br />

a day; this is 10% of all crimes against women.<br />

Experts say the reality could be far worse as<br />

In the last few years, the conviction rate for rape<br />

has been below 30%. This means that out of<br />

100 cases, only 30 saw convictions. Fast-track<br />

courts, investigators, and the absence of forensic<br />

labs are partly responsible for this. South Asian<br />

societies are also characterised by acid attacks,<br />

dowry, and honour killings, but the Indian legal<br />

framework often addresses only a subset of<br />

these issues. While dowry and domestic violence<br />

see considerable laws being enacted to serve<br />

justice, honour killings and acid attacks do not.<br />

The absence of these policies makes it hard for<br />

survivors to be able to attain acknowledgement<br />

of violations or secure justice.<br />

In a country like India, a girl child is often seen<br />

as a burden to pass on, a liability. Given the<br />

dominant influence of patriarchal values, there<br />

is a social preference for boys. This often leads<br />

to malnutrition of girls, sex-selective abortions<br />

of females when the foetus is identified through<br />

ultrasound techniques, and the deliberate killing<br />

of female babies soon after birth. Thanks to<br />

the role of NGOs, such as AVI's partners and<br />

intergovernmental organisations in promoting<br />

gender equality, women’s lives are improving.<br />

However, it is crucial to maintain a sense<br />

of urgency in GBV cases and to pressure<br />

governments into deepening their reforms of<br />

laws related to women's rights and protection<br />

and addressing the different forms of GBV in<br />

India.<br />

Vanessa Comparolo<br />

Vanessa is Action <strong>Village</strong> India’s intern and is in<br />

her second year of her BA in Politics and<br />

International Relations at Westminster University.<br />



Women’s leadership development is an essential<br />

component of creating greater gender equality<br />

in organisations and in society. Generally, gender<br />

equality studies evoke leadership as increasing<br />

power in the political, social and economic<br />

spheres. Although this is important, this article<br />

focuses on grassroots women’s leadership<br />

development, and in particular, the empowerment<br />

of young women who have multiple challenges<br />

constantly marginalizing them, with little or no<br />

power in society. Their empowerment relies on<br />

strategies employed to offset the repercussions<br />

and sometimes violent reactions of power<br />

holders.<br />

There is a key component of women’s leadership<br />

which is the teaching of the practice of<br />

nonviolence. Often people confuse nonviolent<br />

practice as a way to silence women in the<br />

expression of their rights. Rather I would argue,<br />

that managing conflict is so vital for poor<br />

women that without these skills they are more<br />

susceptible to exploitation, oppression and<br />

extermination.<br />

This became evident in the capacity building<br />

training of grassroots women supported by Ekta<br />

Parishad’s land rights campaign in central and<br />

eastern India for the first two decades of this<br />

century. When women were organised into<br />

groups, and believed that land was for the family’s<br />

subsistence and their long-term security, it was<br />

difficult for monied interests to make in-roads.<br />

Invariably, those looking for profit and gain, tried<br />

to create different kinds of conflict, but women<br />

who were trained in nonviolent strategies were<br />

able to sustain a resistance. So even though the<br />

powerful interests were accustomed to wresting<br />

control of land away from local populations, they<br />

were successfully deterred by women who were<br />

trained.<br />

This training of grassroots women was a mixture<br />

of (a) learning about the methods employed in<br />

the large campaigns of Ekta Parishad, (b) seeing<br />

the modeling of women leaders in the movement;<br />

(c) networking among women in building up a<br />

cross-solidarity and trust; (d) understanding the<br />

issue of women’s status in relation to land and<br />

forest rights; (e) managing the domination of<br />

menfolk in the organisation by valuing women’s<br />

autonomy over that of male protection; and (f)<br />

building women’s skills in mobilisation, advocacy<br />

and small-scale economic programmes.<br />

Ekta Mahila Manch or the women’s wing of Ekta<br />

Parishad, was set up in June 2001. It created<br />

a large cadre of women leaders across the<br />

organisation. Over this two decades, it was<br />

sometimes strong and other times, weak. In<br />

general, because of the Ekta Mahila Manch,<br />

we began to see the gradual rise of women’s<br />

participation in land campaigns and also more<br />

women in the leadership.<br />

So what is amazing is that it has endured in spite<br />

of male domination which is so common in<br />

Indian society. Today, Ekta Mahila Manch is<br />

working on building its second line of leadership<br />

among young women between 18 to 30 years of<br />

age. These young women are from rural areas,<br />

yet they are more educated and ready to learn<br />

than their parents' generation. They are not<br />

marrying early, if they have a choice. In a recent<br />

training in Chhattisgarh, the women have talked<br />

about how education is a priority both to offset<br />

early marriage but also to give women sufficient<br />

exposure to the world outside the village. They<br />

also speak of the importance of not taking large<br />

dowries, which then puts them into a more<br />

servile position in their in-laws house. It is very<br />

important for women.<br />

Moving with more education away from dowry<br />

and early marriage and having land rights and<br />

more domestic harmony, is in fact a move from<br />

violence to nonviolence. The new generation<br />

of women leaders are keen to make this move.<br />

This exemplifies how their leadership building<br />

contains values of peace and nonviolence, so<br />

they are not only working for themselves but for<br />

the larger society as well. to have land rights so<br />

they do not have to lose her identity status and<br />

security in the homes due to the lack of property<br />

rights. Generally, women see their land security<br />

wrapped up with the security of the children in<br />

the family. Finally, women are keen to see less<br />

alcohol abuse in the family which not only leads<br />

to gradual impoverisation of the family but also<br />

a lack of domestic harmony.<br />

Jill Carr-Harris<br />

Jill has been the Lead Coordinator in the<br />

International Jai Jagat campaign, a global<br />

initiative promoting peace and nonviolence. Jill<br />

is a teacher, educator, researcher on poverty<br />

reduction, gender and education, specialist<br />

on Indian development policies, trainer on<br />

nonviolence, and activist.

<strong>Gender</strong> <strong>Equality</strong> <strong>Edition</strong><br />

Volume 2, 28th July 2022 VILLAGE MATTERS<br />

7<br />


landowners. This process took two years of<br />

constant community dialogue.<br />

3. Legal literacy for women and men – In<br />

Assam, we held a series of workshops with<br />

women and men to strengthen their legal<br />

literacy and as a result we saw enthusiasm<br />

for joint land entitlement. In all the workshops<br />

we involve men and boys to mobilise them<br />

to play a bigger role in supporting women’s<br />

empowerment.<br />

In what areas have you seen less progress<br />

and why?<br />

This article includes an update on the status<br />

of women’s land ownership in India and<br />

includes excerpts from an interview with<br />

Ramesh Sharma, National Coordinator of Ekta<br />

Parishad, to explore where there has been<br />

progress and what more needs to be done to<br />

secure women’s rights to land ownership.<br />

I worked in a village in South India on a nutrition<br />

research programme in the early 1990s. Women<br />

in the village did the majority of the agricultural<br />

work, they cooked all the household food and<br />

cared for the children. Early forced marriage was<br />

widespread and illegal and dangerous abortions<br />

were commonplace. Women did not own land<br />

or other assets and widows faced stigma and<br />

discrimination.<br />

Many years have passed since then, but despite<br />

significant advancement towards equality in<br />

inheritance laws, women are found to constitute<br />

barely 14% of landowners in India, owning<br />

11% of agricultural land in rural landowning<br />

households, averaged across states. Meanwhile,<br />

the agricultural sector employs roughly 80% of<br />

all economically active women.<br />

Compared with men, women own a smaller<br />

share of cultivated land, usually of poorer<br />

quality. This is because most of the land in<br />

India is privately owned and transferred across<br />

generations through inheritance; a very small<br />

proportion accessed through the markets<br />

and state redistribution. In 2005, the Hindu<br />

Succession (Amendment) Act granted equal<br />

inheritance property rights, but some parents<br />

believe girls should not inherit because they are<br />

given a dowry on marriage.<br />

Others fear the land will pass to a son-in-law’s<br />

family through married daughters. Women can<br />

come under enormous pressure to relinquish<br />

land ownership to male relatives.<br />

The numerous barriers in land ownership that<br />

Indian women face include:<br />

• Women’s lack of legal awareness about their<br />

inheritance rights and steps to ensure land<br />

registration.<br />

• In a context of state neglect of agriculture,<br />

low productivity, and unpredictable crop<br />

prices, many women prefer to maintain social<br />

relations with their brothers and parents for<br />

support in the event of a crisis, rather than<br />

claiming their share of land.<br />

• The skewed implementation of laws fuelling<br />

gendered social discrimination – a primary<br />

contributor being the mediation of women’s<br />

land rights through various personal laws<br />

and customary practices.<br />

The consequences of inequality in land<br />

ownership are multiple:<br />

• Contributes to women’s dependence and<br />

vulnerability. Widespread gender-based<br />

violence (GBV) undermines the rights of<br />

women and can keep women locked in<br />

abusive relationships for the sake of food<br />

security for themselves and their children.<br />

• Impedes women’s access to credit and other<br />

resources from formal institutions, such as<br />

banks and agricultural cooperatives.<br />

• Because women lack control over land, they<br />

are less likely to be included in decisionmaking<br />

about land and be more susceptible<br />

to displacement and exploitation.<br />

To explore the journey to women’s land rights<br />

and discuss some of the priorities going forward,<br />

I met with Ramesh Sharma of Ekta Parishad.<br />

What do you think are the priority areas of<br />

action to ensure women are able to access<br />

their right to land?<br />

In relation to State responsibility, Ramesh<br />

outlined 4 major actions needed:<br />

1. Women Farmers’ Entitlements Bill (2011)<br />

- this was not passed by Government but<br />

needs enacting to recognise women as<br />

farmers, give them access to land and water<br />

rights, thereby allowing them access to<br />

credit and loans etc.<br />

2. National Homestead Rights Act (2013) –<br />

This Act was presented to the Ministry of<br />

Rural Development but was never presented<br />

in parliament. It allots 10 decimals of land (=<br />

1/10th acre) to every homeless person in the<br />

country, with provision for women included,<br />

as well as joint ownership between men and<br />

women.<br />

3. SVAMITVA Scheme – a flagship Central<br />

Government scheme: digital mapping of all<br />

villages and human settlements, using drone<br />

technology. The next phase is to check if<br />

families have land entitlement. Ramesh<br />

suggested a component that could be added:<br />

insert the name of women as landowners/<br />

joint landowners when the data is updated.<br />

4. Exemption of land registration costs and<br />

stamp duty – some State Governments<br />

have been doing this since 2011, if the<br />

family includes the women’s name as the<br />

landowner. This scheme could be enhanced<br />

through Central Government promotion.<br />

Ekta Parishad have seen this to be important<br />

for women in Chhattisgarh, Madya Pradesh<br />

and Jharkhand.<br />

Ramesh also spoke about the social changes<br />

required drawing on Ekta Parishad’s experience<br />

in this area:<br />

1. There are many openings from the State - as<br />

a strategy, we always file any new land claim<br />

in the name of a woman. This is a simple, but<br />

effective step.<br />

2. Engaging the village council leaders in<br />

dialogue is crucial - they have power within<br />

the panchayat legislation. In Manipur, our<br />

women led team started a dialogue with the<br />

<strong>Village</strong> Council leaders, convincing them<br />

to pass a resolution that women should be<br />

Ramesh highlighted four areas below where<br />

he feels that progress has been non-existent or<br />

slow at best:<br />

1. Property related litigations in the court –<br />

legal cases in the courts take decades not<br />

years, a major bottleneck for women’s land<br />

ownership.<br />

2. Land acquisition - land administrators do not<br />

count women as farmers and landowners<br />

resulting in men receiving compensation for<br />

land acquisition.<br />

3. Specific communities have no legal<br />

frameworks through which to secure their<br />

land rights e.g. Nomads, Roma, fisher folk,<br />

single women and pastoralist communities.<br />

4. Recruitment of women officials in the<br />

Revenue Administration – the proportion<br />

of women officials working on land issues<br />

remains very low and male officials are not<br />

sensitive to women’s rights.<br />

What more do we need to do to tackle these<br />

barriers to women’s rights to land ownership?<br />

• Increasing the number of women<br />

representatives in the State Assemblies.<br />

Given parliament and state assemblies are<br />

male dominated, there is limited space for<br />

any new legislation which is progressive and<br />

supportive of women’s land rights, until the<br />

nature of the State Assembly changes.<br />

• Increasing the proportion of women officials<br />

in land administration is essential. Training<br />

on women’s land rights is important for both<br />

women and men land officials.<br />

• Since 2012, we have highlighted the need for<br />

fast track courts to resolve land and property<br />

related disputes - this could help women<br />

significantly.<br />

• Mass awareness raising to address<br />

discriminatory gender norms and social<br />

resistance to women’s land rights - an area<br />

where we need greater effort.<br />

Elanor Jackson & Ramesh Sharma<br />

Ramesh is National Coordinator of Ekta Parishad,<br />

a mass movement for land rights of marginalized<br />

populations in India. He has collaborated with<br />

and assisted other non-violent movements in<br />

Paraguay, Argentina, Chile, Venezuela, Bolivia,<br />

Colombia, Peru, Costa Rica, Panama, Mexico,<br />

Brazil, Bangkok, and Uganda.

8<br />


<strong>Gender</strong> <strong>Equality</strong> <strong>Edition</strong><br />

Volume 2, 28th July 2022<br />



Intersectionality<br />

…the way in which different types of<br />

discrimination (=unfair treatment because of a<br />

person’s sex, race, etc.) are connected to and<br />

affect each other (Cambridge Dictionary UK)<br />

Since 1948, when gender equality was enshrined<br />

by the UN in the Universal Declaration of<br />

Human Rights, and the arrival of an international<br />

feminist movement in the late twentieth century,<br />

the problem of gender inequality has achieved<br />

greater prominence. However, elected leaders<br />

and civil societies have largely underwhelmed<br />

in addressing this issue; we still live in a highly<br />

patriarchal world, where women face more<br />

challenging lives due to their biological sex<br />

and associated socially constructed gender<br />

norms. Fundamentally, our world is led by men<br />

for men, and in every country, rich and poor,<br />

women have faced discrimination due to their<br />

gender. <strong>Gender</strong> inequality presents itself daily to<br />

all women, regardless of age. Obvious realities<br />

include lost schooling, early marriage pressures<br />

and unwanted pregnancies, less pay for labour,<br />

an expectation to perform unpaid care work,<br />

and widespread and ingrained sexualised<br />

harassment and violence. However, gender<br />

inequality is not this simple dichotomy, man<br />

against woman. To act against this injustice, it<br />

is critical to understand how other inequalities<br />

interact with gender to oppress women from<br />

multiple angles.<br />

The idea of intersectionality has arisen in<br />

popularity in academic spheres, and despite<br />

criticisms that intersectionality confuses the<br />

issue of gender inequality, preventing tangible<br />

action, this idea has opened the gender debate<br />

to include all women, as feminism has often<br />

only been available to those of upper classes,<br />

in rich, majority-white western countries. As<br />

such, intersectionality, expressing how women<br />

face discrimination not just from their gender,<br />

but also race, religion, caste, disability and class<br />

to name a few, showcases how inequality has<br />

an interconnected web of roots that all need<br />

tackling to empower women to equal rights and<br />

opportunities with men. Importantly, in India,<br />

women face a deeply patriarchal society but<br />

also various other forms of inequality.<br />

Inequality: the interaction<br />

between gender and caste<br />

In India, caste has existed for<br />

millennia. This form of social<br />

division divides Hindus into distinct<br />

groups based on their work and<br />

duty, from top to bottom – Brahmins,<br />

Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and Shudras.<br />

These groups translate to teachers,<br />

warriors and rulers, traders, and<br />

those below that undertake menial<br />

tasks. These groups are further<br />

subdivided many times. However,<br />

outside of these main stratifications are the<br />

Dalits, the scheduled castes, often described as<br />

'the untouchables.' Due to strict segregation rules<br />

between castes, and especially with Dalits, the<br />

system of caste has maintained deep, unequal<br />

power relations and has constrained people to<br />

this hierarchy that benefits those of the upper<br />

castes. Whilst caste has been present in India<br />

for thousands of years, these social divisions<br />

were cemented by British colonial rulers for the<br />

purpose of population control and divide and<br />

rule. Despite the caste system being banned<br />

from independence in 1947 to counter historical<br />

injustices, their deep roots have continued to<br />

plague Indian society, particularly in rural areas<br />

where different castes avoid eating in each<br />

other’s houses or share land.<br />

Moreover, as India becomes aggressively Hindu<br />

nationalist under Prime Minister Modi, people<br />

of lower castes, and particularly those outside<br />

the caste system; the Dalits, are facing an even<br />

more unequal society. Additionally, pressure<br />

to address the unequal burden placed on<br />

Dalits and attempts to create change is given<br />

least priority, as Hindu preferences and goals<br />

dominate politics. For example, in the BBC<br />

documentary ‘Writing with Fire’ – the story of a<br />

group of women Dalit journalists who founded<br />

their own news platform, Khabar Lahariya, in<br />

Uttar Pradesh – Bureau Chief Meera Devi and<br />

her colleagues highlight the sickening brutality<br />

of gender-based violence that Dalit<br />

women face from other men in<br />

other castes. Their reporting on<br />

rapes, murders and beatings of<br />

Dalit women powerfully showcases<br />

the lack of power Dalit women hold<br />

in being believed by authorities,<br />

and even their fellow Indians. As<br />

one Dalit woman voiced: ‘if there<br />

is untouchability, why did they<br />

touch our girl?’ Importantly, caste<br />

is utilised to justify gender-based<br />

violence, and so is an example<br />

of further discrimination many<br />

women face in India, on top of<br />

being female.<br />

Action <strong>Village</strong> India interviewed Dr Manisha<br />

Gupte about intersectionality in relation to<br />

gender. She has been part of the women’s and<br />

health rights movements in India since the mid<br />

1970s. She has studied Microbiology (MSc) and<br />

Sociology (PhD). Her doctoral thesis was on the<br />

concept and practices of patriarchal honour and<br />

how it intersects with caste, sexuality, violence,<br />

and the agency of subordinated women. She<br />

co-founded Mahila Sarvangeen Utkarsh Mandal<br />

(MASUM), a rural feminist organisation after<br />

living in a drought prone village for five years.<br />

MASUM works with an intersectional perspective<br />

to strengthen human and constitutional rights<br />

of women and other genders. She is actively<br />

involved in capacity building related to the<br />

CEDAW in countries in the Asia Pacific region.<br />

What was your experience of writing a PhD<br />

on intersectionality? Please expand on your<br />

view of intersectionality, its positives, and<br />

negatives.<br />

‘My thesis was titled “Walking the Tight-Rope of<br />

‘Honour’ and Power: Women and the Politics of<br />

Patriarchy.” I tried to understand the concept of<br />

patriarchal and caste ‘honour’ as a case study to<br />

focus on power through an intersectional lens of<br />

backlash against women’s empowerment, rising<br />

cultural nationalism and right-wing politics all<br />

over the world, Islamophobia, racialisation of<br />

immigrants - juxtaposing it against<br />

women’s agency, especially those<br />

from excluded and subordinated<br />

groups. I spoke to people having<br />

a vast range of experiences and<br />

opinions, ranging from right-wing<br />

activists and someone who had<br />

killed in the name of “honour”, to<br />

women from different backgrounds<br />

in terms of caste, class, religion,<br />

marital status, sexual orientation,<br />

gender identity and women in sexwork.<br />

I found that those from the<br />

most excluded and subordinated<br />

groups had the best practical<br />

understanding of the construction of power,<br />

and their lives’ realities provided feminism<br />

with an alternative framework to challenge<br />

patriarchal and caste power.<br />

I used intersectionality in terms of understanding<br />

the complex matrix of domination (see<br />

scholar Patricia Hill Collins) even though I<br />

gained considerably from scholar Kimberlé<br />

Crenshaw’s body of work on intersectionality<br />

as an exclusionary (legal) concept. I feel that<br />

feminisms have dealt with intersectional<br />

experiences, ranging from the private to the<br />

public domains and from highlighting the<br />

standpoints of differently placed people. I feel<br />

that any intervention that doesn’t take into<br />

consideration the vastly different lived realities<br />

of people’s lives is in fact counter-productive<br />

because it (even if inadvertently) underscores<br />

the viewpoint of those who possess the<br />

power of articulation and have access to<br />

policymaking. Only those who are affected can<br />

change that part of the system that oppresses<br />

them, and the role of those who don’t have that<br />

lived reality is to support rather than lead that<br />

campaign /movement towards gender equality.<br />

All inequalities must be taken into consideration<br />

as we theorise or act because gender itself is<br />

an intersection between the biological and the<br />

social. Women are not homogenous; also, all<br />

their experiences are tied up with their other,<br />

multiple identities’.<br />

MASUM focuses on rural<br />

India. What real-life issues did<br />

you see of gender and caste<br />

discrimination working in unison<br />

against women?<br />

‘It is impossible to separate<br />

patriarchy and caste in India and<br />

some other parts of South Asia.<br />

The public and private domains are<br />

loaded with the daily restrictions<br />

on women, with those from<br />

subordinated castes bearing the<br />

brunt of patriarchy, caste, poverty,<br />

and marginalisation in every aspect<br />

of their lives. Ramesh and I had<br />

wanted to work in rural India to understand the<br />

caste, feudal and patriarchal structures there,<br />

and to learn from people about how one should<br />

address those. Living in a drought-prone village<br />

in rural Maharashtra for five years (during which<br />

MASUM was founded) gave us painful insights<br />

into the oppression and exploitation based on<br />

multiple discriminations, denials, violence, and<br />

violation of human and constitutional rights.<br />

Most of these are trivialised, normalised, and<br />

justified. Please see my paper (http://www.epw.<br />

in/review-womens-studies/concept-honour.<br />

html) to understand how daily, small acts and<br />

even proverbs and words are laden with caste<br />

and patriarchy. The MASUM website (www.<br />

masum-india.org.in) should also have the link<br />

to my paper as well as my editors’ introduction<br />

to our book on honour and rights in South Asia.<br />

You mention that you have worked on policy<br />

issues with the state and central governments<br />

in India for 30 years - how are women’s rights<br />

perceived by the central government?<br />

‘My interaction with policy makers has always<br />

been related to gender issues. There are<br />

progressive elements in patriarchal societies<br />

too, and various efforts are made to bring in<br />

law and policy to address patriarchy. Some of<br />

my experiences have been satisfactory, others<br />

not so. The reasons may range from inadequate<br />

financial allocation to implementation of<br />

the policy to the inability of policymakers to<br />

contextualise their law or policy in the real-life<br />

situations of women. In recent times, attempting<br />

to bring in the death penalty for rape or raising<br />

the age at marriage for girls from 18 to 21 have<br />

been such misplaced ‘gender concerns.’<br />

Patriarchal backlash also results in a feminist<br />

demand to be co-opted; the examples being<br />

reduced access to legal medical termination of<br />

pregnancy due to the (feminist led campaign on)<br />

ban on sex-determination of the foetus or any<br />

other form of sex-selection. Employers admitting<br />

reluctance to hire women due to the act that<br />

protects women from sexual harassment in the<br />

workplace or further discouraging / policing<br />

casual interaction among men and women in<br />

the workplace is another example. The fact<br />

that women from subjugated castes and class<br />

are sexually harassed daily on farms and in<br />

other informal sector workplaces is overlooked<br />

because of the limited implementation of the<br />

law in a setting where historical discrimination<br />

and inequality operate more strongly than the<br />

progressive constitution of the country or basic<br />

human rights of all people.’<br />

What is something that has surprised you in<br />

working in the field of women’s rights?<br />

‘I have always been humbled and amazed by<br />

the readiness of subordinated women in our<br />

rural communities to change their lives and<br />

become agents of change for other women. I<br />

learn and unlearn every time women come up<br />

with innovative strategies to take on patriarchy<br />

and caste, sometimes directly and at other<br />

times, somewhat obliquely. The sense of<br />

humour, ready laughter, and indomitable spirit<br />

of those who are marginalised and subjugated<br />

within and outside the home is a healing balm<br />

in an otherwise depressing world.’<br />

Emily Lewis & Manisha Gupte

<strong>Gender</strong> <strong>Equality</strong> <strong>Edition</strong><br />

Volume 2, 28th July 2022 VILLAGE MATTERS<br />

9<br />




GOT US?<br />



"Our Chief Minister is a woman. Does this<br />

mean that women in the state are entitled to<br />

power? For gender equality, it is necessary<br />

to rise above politics and move away from<br />

power. When women leaders work, men have<br />

to think that women are our colleagues and<br />

if they work well, then my work is accepted."<br />

– Bharati Ghosh, ex-member of Panchayat<br />

Samiti, Labpur.<br />

It is not enough that power in rural local<br />

governance in West Bengal rests with the male<br />

leaders with women playing a proxy role, but<br />

to complicate matters, such politics is shaped<br />

through ‘guidance’ from the political party in<br />

power. Hence, conversations with men are not<br />

only restricted to elected representatives but<br />

extend to non-elected opinion leaders as well.<br />

targeted. The fact that so many men would have<br />

direct experience of oppression, through caste,<br />

class, sexuality or age, gives them some way to<br />

relate to women’s experiences of subordination<br />

under the gender system. We believe that<br />

this opportunity for empathy can become the<br />

possibility of solidarity when the interlocking<br />

links between different forms of injustice and<br />

oppression are made clear.<br />

Bharati Ghosh sums up why, in spite of the<br />

discourse on reservation for women undergoing<br />

a shift from 'equal opportunity' to 'equality of<br />

result' over so many years, society continues to<br />

discriminate and create hidden barriers which<br />

prevent women from<br />

acheiving their share of<br />

political influence.<br />

The pre-supposition<br />

for accepting genderbased<br />

reservations<br />

at local level was that<br />

once women gained<br />

experience in elected<br />

politics, an extension<br />

of this reservation to<br />

the national level could<br />

be sought. A study by<br />

Equidiversity Foundation,<br />

with 63 elected women<br />

representatives in six<br />

gram panchayats in<br />

three blocks of South 24<br />

Parganas and Birbhum in<br />

West Bengal in 2016, found<br />

that 63.5% of elected<br />

women representatives<br />

filled their nomination at<br />

the request of a political<br />

party. An overwhelming<br />

93.65 % of women elected<br />

representatives said<br />

their entry in politics was<br />

because their husband, or another male family<br />

member, was actively involved in party politics.<br />

"Previously the thought was that we have to fill<br />

up seats for women and hence women were<br />

identified. At the local, regional and central<br />

(party) level, it was decided which household<br />

is to be targeted. Usually the ability and<br />

experience of the woman was never considered.<br />

This practice has started to change but largely<br />

prevails," says Dayamoy Das, a Panchayat<br />

Samiti member in the Labpur block of Birbhum.<br />

It is quite evident that the political and social<br />

empowerment of women will not be achieved<br />

unless men become willing allies who have many<br />

strong motivations for ending men’s violence<br />

against women and promoting gender equality.<br />


Khusbu Khatoon, a 30 year old married<br />

Muslim minority woman and a mother<br />

of two became a member of Thiba<br />

Gram Panchayat in 2018. Khushbu<br />

was neither expected nor encouraged<br />

to take part in governance activities,<br />

attend meetings and think about<br />

development. Her husband was there<br />

‘to take care of everything’.<br />

The process of trainings and<br />

handholding Khushbu went through<br />

started making her very uneasy. She<br />

started reflecting on her role as an<br />

elected representative particularly with<br />

regard to catering to the development<br />

needs of women and children. Slowly,<br />

she mustered the courage to make<br />

herself available in the GP meetings.<br />

She had to confront her family who<br />

questioned her decision to attend the<br />

GP regularly when she had the privilege<br />

of learning about the happenings from<br />

her husband. Khusbu fought and chose<br />

to be defiant and stand by her decision.<br />

For that to happen,<br />

men too need to<br />

break the shackles<br />

of patriarchy. The<br />

starting point is<br />

initiating discussions<br />

on contentious issues<br />

like gender and<br />

masculinities within<br />

communities of men,<br />

that is premised on<br />

the fact that men too<br />

have been victims of<br />

a patriarchal mindset<br />

that traps them in the<br />

roles of providers,<br />

protectors and often,<br />

predators.<br />

Our communities<br />

have strong cultural<br />

norms governing<br />

masculinity, rigid<br />

beliefs about the<br />

status of women in<br />

comparison to men<br />

as well as socioeconomic<br />

barriers to<br />

a woman’s autonomy.<br />

At the same time, men’s own experiences of<br />

injustice (social and economic) and patriarchal<br />

pressures give them common cause with<br />

women in their communities who are similarly<br />

For example, Syed Sasmat Ahmed, a member<br />

of Daskalgram Kareya Gram Panchayat is a<br />

no nonsense person with an archaic mindset.<br />

Being active in patriarchal politics for twentytwo<br />

years, he never felt it necessary to consult<br />

others or give his women colleagues any primacy<br />

in the workplace. He believed that women were<br />

best suited for household work and children<br />

were only required to follow orders and dictates.<br />

Any difference of opinion with him would lead to<br />

angry altercations. In the last nine months that<br />

we have worked with him, Sasmat Ahmad has<br />

tried to reflect on his style of leadership. He now<br />

engages with his family and women and says,<br />

"My relationships with my wife and children have<br />

become much happier lately. I was surprised to<br />

see how good I felt when I prepared the plate of<br />

fruits everyday to break the fast during Iftaar and<br />

shared them with my wife." He is realising the<br />

importance of dialogue and listening to different<br />

perspectives. He is more encouraging towards<br />

his women colleagues and attends our meetings<br />

and workshops with a lot of enthusiasm. Today,<br />

he is more mindful of use of words and harsh<br />

behaviour in dealing with his children as it<br />

reminds him "of the mental health impact on<br />

wellbeing of children."<br />

Politics continues to be a male domain and the<br />

practice of seat reservation is looked upon as<br />

usurpation of male entitlement to positions of<br />

power. The need of the hour is to lay bare the<br />

inherent patriarchy within the system; working<br />

intensely with the layers of gender trappings<br />

of both men and women as individuals and as<br />

political leaders. Only then can we hope for<br />

transformation of power relations starting with<br />

the family to the political party.<br />

Anindita Majumdar<br />

As if to validate this, Equidiversity Foundation<br />

found that the general practice of the political<br />

parties is to nominate fresh candidates for<br />

every election. Only 22.2% candidates were<br />

given tickets more than once. As a result once<br />

the 'reserved' seats become 'general seats'<br />

or 'scheduled caste/ scheduled tribe (SC/ST)<br />

reserved' seats women failed to get tickets.<br />

Irrespective of the experience gathered in the<br />

last five years and leadership abilities shown,<br />

barring a handful who found a place in the<br />

political parties, most women went back to their<br />

previous nurturing roles.<br />

What is in it for men to shift power?<br />

"Having a weapon is not enough, you have to<br />

use it and continued use will sharpen it. <strong>Gender</strong><br />

quota is like this; it exists officially, but it will<br />

not work without political will." - Dayamoy Das,<br />

Panchayat Samiti leader, Labpur, Birbhum.

10<br />



<strong>Gender</strong> <strong>Equality</strong> <strong>Edition</strong><br />

Volume 2, 28th July 2022<br />




2021 DOCUMENTARY 1H34M<br />

This BBC documentary tells the<br />

story of Khabar Lahariya, a small<br />

media company founded, and run, by<br />

women in Uttar Pradesh. From male<br />

disapproval to the gaping challenges<br />

that face female journalists, including<br />

their need to be trained to use a mobile<br />

phone, this documentary is truly<br />

inspiring, showcasing the bravery<br />

and resilience of women to stand up<br />

to injustice and broadcast brutality.<br />


2015 DRAMA 1H58M<br />

Four women, four different stories,<br />

each of them struggle in their own<br />

life connected to each other by hope.<br />

At the end of the day, they are left<br />

alone to fight their own demons,<br />

and stage their own personal wars.<br />

Parched is a hard hitting story of<br />

four Rajasthani women, who live in<br />

a tightly controlled male subjugated<br />

society, hemmed in by custom. They<br />

unrepentantly talk about love, sex,<br />

their dreams and struggles in their<br />

day-to-day lives.<br />



2020 TV MINI SERIES 1H26M<br />

Feminist movements have the power<br />

to disrupt the status quo and radically<br />

alter the course of history for women<br />

and girls—and ALL historically<br />

marginalized people and communities<br />

globally. The series profiles a<br />

distinct set of remarkable grassroots<br />

leaders working on issues from ending<br />

child, early, and forced marriage<br />

in Pakistan to pursuing LGBTQI+<br />

liberation in Georgia.<br />




Pulitzer Prize-winning reporting<br />

team, husband and wife Nicholas<br />

D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, take<br />

us on a journey through Africa and<br />

Asia to meet an extraordinary array<br />

of exceptional women struggling<br />

against terrible circumstances.<br />

This book is a a passionate call<br />

to arms against our era’s most<br />

pervasive human rights violation: the<br />

oppression of women and girls in the<br />

developing world.<br />

BOOKS<br />



A truly eye-opening book that<br />

delivers shocks in each chapter. From<br />

highlighting how the world around us<br />

is made for the protoype male, such<br />

as the size of a mobile phone to car<br />

seat-belt design and medical drug<br />

trials, this book educates and exposes<br />

the depth and breadth of gender<br />

inequality. A must read, especially<br />

for those who deny the presence of<br />

gender inequality!<br />



In this personal, eloquently argued<br />

essay - adapted from her muchadmired<br />

Tedx talk of the same<br />

name - Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie<br />

offers readers a unique definition<br />

of feminism for the twenty-first<br />

century, one rooted in inclusion and<br />

awareness.<br />






As a woman growing up in India,<br />

Seema Nair experienced first-hand<br />

the country’s deeply entrenched<br />

gender inequalities and violence. She<br />

describes how survivors of sexual<br />

violence in India are beginning to<br />

speak out about their experiences<br />

and lead other women in the fight to<br />

change society.<br />



Stella Donnelly’s debut album –<br />

“Beware of Dogs” -- cuts through<br />

the noise of the current indie-pop<br />

scene with its entirely empathetic<br />

and comical take on modern social<br />

issues. This Australian singersongwriter’s<br />

2019 release naturally<br />

develops on the messages of<br />

Donnelly’s inaugural 2017 release of<br />

‘Boys Will Be Boys’, and its attack on<br />

victim-blaming, conveniently timed at<br />

the crux of the #MeToo movement.<br />




Acoustic Women features<br />

extraordinary female artists from<br />

countries around the world including<br />

Martinique, Brazil, Lebanon, Wales<br />

and Sweden, the album continues<br />

Putumayo’s long tradition of<br />

celebrating women in music.<br />


1. How many women and girls are<br />

missing globally because of parents<br />

preferring to have sons?<br />

• 130 million<br />

• 13 million<br />

• 1.3 million<br />

2. If current trends continue, how many<br />

girls between 6 and 11 years across the<br />

world will never get to primary school?<br />

• 12 million<br />

• 16 million<br />

• 32 million<br />

6. In India, how many miles do rural<br />

women walk a day to collect water?<br />

• 1-5 km<br />

• 5-20 km<br />

• 20-30 km<br />

7. Globally, across all sectors and<br />

occupations, women on average earn<br />

less than men. On average what % of<br />

men’s wages do women earn?<br />

• 100% of mens’ wages<br />

• 95-83% of mens’ wages<br />

• 60-75% of mens’ wages<br />

3. Across the world, how often does a girl<br />

under the age of 18 get married?<br />

• Every 2 seconds<br />

• Every 13 minutes<br />

• Every 65 minutes<br />

4. Globally, as an adolescent girl between<br />

15 and 19 years old, what are you most<br />

likely to die from?<br />

• Self-harm<br />

• Traffic accidents<br />

• Complications in pregnancy<br />

5. Globally, how many women experience<br />

violence?<br />

• 1 in 25<br />

• 1 in 14<br />

• 1 in 3<br />

8. As of December 2021, how many<br />

countries in the world have at least 50%<br />

parliamentarians?<br />

• 8<br />

• 5<br />

• 4<br />

9. What percentage of women over the<br />

age of 60 years are widows in India?<br />

• 79%<br />

• 58%<br />

• 37%<br />




<strong>Gender</strong> <strong>Equality</strong> <strong>Edition</strong><br />

Volume 2, 28th July 2022 VILLAGE MATTERS<br />

11<br />


Complete the crossword puzzle on gender,<br />

power and equality<br />

Across<br />

2. The first country to grant women the right to vote<br />

3. Believed to be the first women’s rights event, ___________<br />

convention, born in New York in 1848.<br />

5. Credited as the first computer programmer, this 19th century<br />

woman also created a ‘flying machine’.<br />

9. Famous English 18th century writer and advocate for<br />

women’s rights who wrote ‘A Vindication of the Rights of<br />

Women’.<br />

10. American Hollywood actress who pioneered the technology<br />

that would one day form the basis off modern WIFI, GPS and<br />

Bluetooth.<br />

11. First female Indian Prime Minister.<br />

Down<br />

1. Invisible barrier that prevents women from afvancing to the<br />

top jobs in an organisation.<br />

4. Leading women’s rights activist who was shot by the Taliban<br />

for openly advocating for education.<br />

6. The state of being equal, especially in status, rights and<br />

opportunities.<br />

7. African country that was the first in the world to have a<br />

majority of women in its government.<br />

8. North African country where the first documented campaign<br />

against FGM occurred in the 1920s.<br />


EQUAL<br />

HOPE<br />











SEXISM<br />





12<br />


<strong>Gender</strong> <strong>Equality</strong> <strong>Edition</strong><br />

Volume 2, 28th July 2022<br />




Safi was a women’s rights activist<br />

and an economics lecturer. She had<br />

been partaking in protests against the<br />

Taliban’s oppressive rule. She was shot<br />

dead in northern Afghanistan; her body<br />

was found in a house with three other<br />

women. She was 29 years old. “We<br />

recognised her by her clothes. Bullets<br />

had destroyed her face,” said Safi’s<br />

sister, Rita. “There were bullet wounds<br />

all over, too many to count, on her head,<br />

chest, kidneys, and legs.”<br />

Elizabeth Ibrahim Ekaru<br />

03-01-2022<br />

Women’s rights defender<br />

Kenya<br />

Marisol Cuadras<br />

20-11-2021<br />

Feminist activist<br />

Mexico<br />


5 SEPTEMBER 2017, INDIA<br />

Gauri Lankesh was a prominent human<br />

rights and women’s rights journalist<br />

and activist. Gauri was known for<br />

campaigning for women’s rights,<br />

speaking against right-wing Hindu<br />

extremism, and opposing caste-based<br />

discrimination.<br />

On September 5th, 2017, she was shot<br />

dead in front of her residence in south<br />

Bengaluru. After her death, there was<br />

nationwide outrage with protests being<br />

held in many cities across India.<br />

Micaela García<br />

10-04-2017<br />

Women’s rights activist<br />

Argentina<br />

Sherly Montoya<br />

04-04-2017<br />

Women’s human rights defender<br />

Honduras<br />



Angiza was a women’s rights defender<br />

and politician. She was determinded<br />

to defend the right to education and<br />

women’s rights.<br />

Angiza was an active provincial council<br />

member in Nangarhar when she was<br />

killed following a bomb attack on her<br />

vehicle. Her death highlights the danger<br />

that Afghan women face when taking<br />

up political positions.<br />

Yorganis Isabel Varela<br />

30-01-2917<br />

Indigenous women’s rights defender<br />

Columbia<br />

Berta Cáceres Flores<br />

02-03-2016<br />

Indigenous leader/ feminist activist<br />

Honduras<br />


24 APRIL 2015, PAKISTAN<br />

Sabeen was one of Pakistan’s most<br />

prominent women and human right’s<br />

activists and the founder of The Second<br />

Floor, a cafe that is a community space<br />

for open dialogue.<br />

On April 24th, 2015, Sabeen was shot<br />

and killed in front of her mother.<br />

“Fear is just a line in your head. You can<br />

choose what side of the line you want to<br />

be on” - Sabeen Mahmud.<br />

Hande Kader<br />

Body found 12-08-2016<br />

LGBTI activist<br />

Turkey<br />

Francela Méndez<br />

31-05-2015<br />

<strong>Gender</strong> justice defender<br />

El Salvador<br />


14 MARCH 2018, BRAZIL<br />

Marielle was a prominent Brazilian<br />

politician, sociologist, feminist and<br />

human rights’ activist. She was an<br />

outspoken critic of police brutality and<br />

killings, and stood as Rio de Janiero’s<br />

city councillor.<br />

On March, 14th, 2018, Marielle was shot<br />

in a car after delivering a speech. Latin<br />

America faces grave issues with killings<br />

of female activists. By April 2022, 52<br />

activists had already been killed in<br />

Columbia since the start of the year.<br />

Intisar al-Hasairi<br />

24-02-2015<br />

<strong>Gender</strong> justice defender<br />

Libya<br />

Losana McGowan<br />

04-05-2015<br />

<strong>Gender</strong> issues advocate<br />

Fiji<br />

*All references for this newspaper can be found on www.actionvillageindia.org.uk/genderequality

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